Don't count on Chase changes

Gordon says series could be better if it would hit the road

August 17, 2011|By George Diaz, Tribune newspapers

Although there has been an occasional push from a driver to include a road course in the Chase — I recall Ryan Newman suggesting that Daytona's road course could be a viable venue — don't expect any changes in the current format.

The road racing question popped up at Watkins Glen last weekend.

"There's nothing on the table," NASCAR President Mike Helton said. "We wouldn't stack races up in the Chase for the benefit of the Chase. The Chase is the last 10 races of the season. But as the evolution of changes go on, who knows what could end up as the last 10 races."

The makeup of the last 10 races that set the Chase for the Championship just happened to coincide with the existing schedule, Helton said.

The feeling isn't unanimous. Jeff Gordon — who holds the record for Cup victories on road courses — argued last week that "to make the championship fully complete and find out the true best team and driver, the only thing that we're missing in the Chase right now is a road course.

"The Chase has about everything, from short tracks to superspeedways to intermediates. But if you wanted to look at just one thing that was missing, it would be a road course.

"As exciting as the road courses have been here lately with these double-file restarts, I think the fans would be for it as well. In the past, you haven't seen that kind of action. Most people would say that a road course isn't as traditional as the ovals are in our sport, so why have one in the Chase? I could see one in there."

No. 4 for Gibbs: After failing to snag Carl Edwards as the fourth driver for Joe Gibbs Racing, President JD Gibbs has not ruled out plans to add a fourth Sprint Cup team. "You have to have a driver, which is key,'' he said. "You need the right partner to sponsor the team (and) you have to have the right crew. If all that comes together, we're good to go. We can go quickly. But we've also learned that if all that doesn't come together, we're better off waiting."

HANS upgrade: NASCAR officials recently approved the Sport II HANS device for competition in all NASCAR series. The safety upgrade includes a lower rounded collar and is lighter, which allows for a better fit. In large measure to the use of the HANS device, NASCAR hasn't had a fatality in a race since Dale Earnhardt crashed on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.

George Diaz

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